Introduction to PCB Assembly
What is a PCB Assembly (PCBA)?
In simple terms, PCBA is the combination of the PCB plus components plus electronic accessories. The PCB is a board that uses conductive tracks and copper features to structurally support and electronically connect the various components to insulative substrates. When other components like the capacitors, resistors, integrated circuits (ICs), transformers, etc., depending on the intended use, are mounted on the PCB, the resulting board is a PCBA.
In time past, it was a common practice for companies to fabricate and assembly their PCB in-house. This approach is very costly because of the investment required for real estate, machinery, facility development, and staffing. And as a result, only companies that had substantial investment capital could establish equipment manufacturing companies. Today, with several small to medium- sized Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in existence, fabricating and assembling PCB in-house is impracticable. Therefore, the assembly of PCB can be outsourced to companies that provide PCB Assembly services.
Because they specialize in assembly services, PCB assembly companies can produce high-quality PCBs with a low-cost budget and with fast turn-around time. Furthermore, they usually have highly sophisticated facilities that make it possible for them to produce even the most complex PCBs.
However, it’s not just about outsourcing your PCB assembly; it’s about outsourcing it to the right company. The right assembly company is one that is best suited to meet your requirement regarding quality and delivery time for the lowest cost.
The PCB Assembly Process
Before you even consider getting a PCB assembly company, it is essential that you understand what it entails. As we’ve defined before, PCBA is the addition of components on the PCB board. There are two main processes for performing PCB assembly.
It is the most prevalent assembly method used in several electronic gadgets. Here, components are directly mounted on the surface of the board. This method can be used to create very compact PCB. Specifically, a PCB assembly made with the through-hole method can be made the surface-mount technology with just 10 percent of the board weight and 30 percent of the board size. This higher connection density allows for quicker and cheaper board production.
It is a more ancient method of PCB assembly. This method involves the drilling of holes in the circuit board. After that, the components or units are fixed in the holes by padding its sides with the use of soldered leads. Because of the stronger bond between the components and the board, PCBs manufactured with this method are usually more durable. However, this approach is more expensive and time-consuming. For products such as transformers and connectors that are destined to undergo high mechanical, electrical or environmental stress, through-hole manufacturing remains the best option for executing their PCB assembly.
If the equipment you are trying to build fits the description above, through-hole manufacturing is the best bet. If not, using the surface-mount technology may be preferable. In some instances, both methods are combined for PCB assembly, depending on what the project requires.
Factors to Consider when Selecting PCB Assembly Services
The success of your project depends on having the right PCB assembly service. However, the process of selecting the right one from the numerous PCB assembly services can be daunting. The following factors are a well-proven guide that will ensure that you partner with the right PCB assembly company that will allow you to accomplish your goal.
To minimize expenses and maximize profits, it is essential that all phase of production, including the assembly, follows the timeline, as delays would lead to the unnecessary cost burden. Therefore, you want a PCB assembly service that can work within your time frame.
As an example, if a company is slow at responding to your queries or you need to request for information multiple times before you get feedback, it is a good indication that they might be a drag later on. To small sized OEM, such delays can have a devastating impact on your business. Therefore, make sure that you carry out your homework effectively to ensure that the timeline in which the company operates works correctly for you.
Location and distance are also factors that many buyers consider, as it will affect transportation costs. But many Chinese manufacturers such as WellPCB offer online calculations, you can get shipping costs and total prices quickly. Sometimes for different countries, there are different discounts for shipping by DHL, so even if you feel that the distance is very far, the shipping price is not necessarily expensive.
It is best to work with experienced PCB assembly companies that are similar to your project. Some of the critical questions to be answered with regards to experiences include the following. What assembly technology do they specialize in; surface mount or through-hole or both? The batch size they use? What kind of gadgets do they assemble and what are the usual components they assemble? What industry do they specialize in?
Your goal is to find a PCB assembly service that aligns perfectly with your job requirement. Also, part of gathering information about their experience is also finding out how long they’ve been in business. By partnering with companies that have been in business for long, you can guarantee that the people who work in your project have the expertise you need to create the best products for you.
How involved will the selected partner be in the design process? Some companies will assembly whatever design you send to them, and some will have the capacity to collaborate with you in creating the outline. In general, It’s best to work with PCBA, which will actively revise your program to produce the best project at the end of the day.
To ensure that the final users of your product are satisfied, you have to ensure that you make high-quality products. To accomplish this, you need to work with a PCBA company reputable for high-quality products. However, trying to judge the quality before delivery of the final PCBA can be quite tricky. A way around this is to have the company assemble either a prototype or small batches. If you are satisfied with the results, then, larger batches can be manufactured. Some of the critical components to consider in the assessment of quality includes:
Machinery: How good is the machinery used by the company? Having state-of-the-art machinery is no guarantee that the product will be top-notch. However, it is a good indicator that the final item will probably be right.
Certifications: Before getting certified, a third-party recognized body does an independent review of the services offered by a company. Therefore, certifications assure you that the practices of the company are in line with the best standards. For instance, an ISO 9001:2015 certification is used to certify that a quality management system is in place.
Customer Feedback: The feedbacks that a company has received is a good indication of the quality of services that they render. You should do your research to find out whether previous clients were satisfied with the delivery of the company.
A good PCB assembler is one that offers a testing option. Rigorous testing is necessary because equipment failure will result in the loss of time, money and damage to your reputation. To avoid this, you have to ensure that the PCB assembly service selected is willing to allow you to test.
It is your responsibility to look for a company that offers a comprehensive testing option that works well with you. Some general testing services include component-level checks, automated optical inspections, and in-circuit verification. Companies that will allow you to work out a custom testing plan with them is even more preferable.
Partnering with a technically competent assembler is essential. However, it is more important to ensure that you partner with a PCB assembly service that will provide exceptional customer service. It is because you want a partner that will help you work out the best solution, offer you advice and help out if any problem arises in the future.
By communicating with the company’s representative, you can get a feel for how supportive they are. The way, manner and promptness with which they respond to your queries will give you a good insight as to how helpful they are. Similarly, online testimonials and their social media engagement will show the effectiveness of their customer support.
Make sure you clarify the extent to which support will be provided to you. Will they do routine testing? Will they help to fix problems that arise with the PCBs? How soon will they take to fix your problems? You want to ensure that you are getting the best deal regarding customer support.
When it comes to pricing, your goal is to get the most excellent value for the least buck. It is because the amount you pay for the PCB assembly will affect the final price of the gadget. Therefore, to remain competitive, you need to make your product of high-quality and affordable price. The factors affecting pricing includes the order size, services requested, resources provided, labor cost and shipping cost.
Although pricing is necessary, the budget should not be too small such that it would compromise the quality of the product. The best approach is to get quotes from several PCB assembly services and find the one that offers excellent quality at a reasonable cost.
Reg Flags to Avoid when Selecting PCB Assembly Services
When you are trying to select one out of the several PCB assembly services, there are some critical danger signals. These red flags should serve as an indication to deter you from reaching any consensus with any PCB assembly company that exhibits them.
If communication is not smooth with the company, you should not select them. It is because it will drastically affect how information will be shared between the two of you. Similarly, you should not partner with a company that will not continuously keep you in the loop without you having to ask.
Companies that are unwilling to compromise to ensure that you get the best solution should not work with them. If their working requirements are too strict for you to comply with, it’s a clear indication to back down from such a partnership.
If time is an important factor for you, you need a company that is reputable for offering speed delivery. If the company has a track record of delivering projects after the specified deadline without any reasonable explanation, you should think twice before you contract to them your PCB assembly.
A PCB assembly company that is not able to provide you with references, unless they are new, has something unpleasant to hide. Therefore, you should avoid partnering with them.
Avoid using assembly companies that are expensive and cannot be reasonably proven. If you can’t explain why you’re paying such a high price, why should you use them?
What Happens When You Choose a PCB Assembly Service?
When you’ve used the factors discussed in the previous chapters to find a PCB assembly service that is a perfect fit for you, it is now time to begin the actual assembly process. Here are what you should expect after selecting a PCB assembly service.
Here, strict discuss the details of the projectrigorously. The methodology, equipment, units and processes that will be employed will be determined. This process will ensure that a solid plan is in place before the PCBA commences.
It is the stage where you provide the assembly company with all the resources required, including the components and design outlines. After that, the assembly process begins.
Here, the assembly service keeps in touch with you to provide regular project updates. If any challenge arises along the way, they ask for your input.
Once the PCB assembly service completes the project according to your specs, it is delivered to you.
After delivery, the assembly company will check-in after sometimes to see if any issue arises. It is to ensure that everything is still working as specified.
Pricing of PCB Assembly
The price of a PCB assembly depends on several factors. Some of the notable ones include:
PCB assembly services quote different prices, even for the same project.
The larger the size of your order, the more expensive it is. However, most companies have discounted prices for larger bulk order.
It is quite obvious that your specifications will affect the pricing, higher quality, extra testing, and complicated design attract higher costs.
If you supply the assembler with the resources necessary, they won’t need to purchase them. Therefore, a lower assembly cost will result.
However, if the PCB assembly company has to purchase all the resources, it will attract a higher cost.
The size of the order, distance and shipping option will affect the shipping cost.
An interplay of all these factors will determine the final cost of your project.
Every OEM aims to manufacture top-notch electrical gadgets at reasonable prices. It is very important if they are to remain competitive in the marketplace. The quality of an electronic gadget is dependent on the quality of the PCB assembly. However, selecting the right fit is often a tedious process. To ensure that the right PCB assembly service is selected, discussed the important factors to consider. By using these factors to streamline the best fit out of the several PCB assembly services that exist, you can guarantee that you will eventually get the right assembler. Finally, the quality of your product must never be compromised because of an undue budget cut.
If you’re ready to get high-quality PCB assembly, you’re in the right place. Kindly click here to get a quote.